In the Washington Park neighborhood, Ald. Jeanette Taylor kept the speeches short and went straight to the dance floor Tuesday. With 53% of the vote, according to unofficial totals, the incumbent 20th Ward alderman exuded confidence in her words — and her dance moves.
Though neither of her challengers had conceded, it didn’t stop Taylor from celebrating Tuesday as she pulled far enough ahead of them to win more than half the vote, clinching another term without having to go to a second round of balloting.
“The thought that (voters) went out to the polls and put me back gives me relief,” Taylor told the Tribune. “And lets me know that they trust me and I trust them.”
Taylor, a community activist, emerged from a crowded field to win the seat in 2019 following the indictment of former Ald. Willie Cochran. He went on to plead guilty to wire fraud in federal court, adding to the ward’s checkered history of corruption.
Ahead of the 2019 campaign, Taylor had become known for her activism in the community: participating in a 34-day hunger strike that led to the reopening of the Dyett High School campus in Washington Park and a push for the University of Chicago Hospital to open an adult trauma center. Since taking office, Taylor touted her push to maintain housing affordability around the site of the Obama Presidential Center. She also raised the alarm about a massive rail yard expansion in Englewood and recently delayed a related council vote, but ultimately went in favor of the project with what she said were more promises of community benefits.
Her opponents, retired Chicago police officer Jennifer Maddox and finance manager Andre Smith, finished with 26% and 21% of the vote, respectively, according to unofficial returns. They also ran four years ago.
Though the City Council saw an exodus of aldermen who chose not to seek reelection this year, the incumbent who did fared well, almost all winning new terms or a place in a runoff. The exception was 12th Ward Ald. Anabel Abarca, who’d only recently been appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Lightfoot was, of course, the other incumbent who lost Tuesday, placing third in the mayoral race former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and former Chicago Teachers Union organizer Brandon Johnson. Vallas and Johnson, a Cook County commissioner, will advance to an April 4 runoff.
Taylor, who had the backing of the CTU and the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, pledged to support Johnson in the mayoral runoff in April.
“Brandon is actually somebody I support and I’ve known for 20 years,” Taylor said. “I’m nervous and glad, because it’s Paul Vallas (who advanced with Johnson to the runoff). People don’t know the monstrous stuff Paul Vallas has done. Like, he’s the one that started school probations.”
Then “Baby I’m Scared of You” by Womack & Womack started playing and Taylor politely ended the interview and returned to dancing.